The Capture of the Earl of Argyll near Renfrew in 1685 #History #Scotland

Argyll Captured

18 June, 1685, the Argyll Rising ends with the earl allegedly captured by a drunken weaver…

Lord Fountainhall records:

‘As to the singular and providentiall way of [the earl of] Argile’s taking, it was this: seing ther affairs marred, and ther march retarded by falling in that boog, and having caused Seton fyre a heathery moor, to impede, by the mist, the ennemies pershuit of them; he withdraws from the body of his forces with 2 men, and thinking he would be lesse suspect alone, he dismisses them, and trysts them to meit him at night at such a place in Galloway.’

Supporters of Argyll were rallying in Galloway on 16 June. Daniel Ker of Kersland was also said to be leading a party there in his support.

‘Thus, ryding all alone on a litle horse, he comes to crosse the water at Inshshinnan, beside Paisley, ther 2 serving men to Sir John Shaw of Greinock, are ryding behind him, dryving ther master’s baggage horse, and it being weary, they resolve to take that countryman’s horse, (for he was disguised, and had a bonnet on,) from him, and set him to his foot: [>p181.] they designed no more, so that if he had quite his horse, he had escaped that bout; but he not knowing ther designe, did, on ther crying and pershueing him, turne about and fyre a pistoll or 2 at them, (for he had 3 on him,) and then took the water; but a webster dwelling ther, under [Robert] Semple of Beltries, being awakned with the noice, came furth with a broad sword, and whille the other 2 ware capitulating with him, for to let him goe for some gold he offered them, the weaver being in drink, and so stouter than the rest, swore he would not part with him, for he was on[e] of Argile’s men; wheron Argile attempts to fyre at him, but the morse being wet with the river water, it would not goe of: wheron the weaver had leisure to draw his sword, and it was so rusty it cracked in the coming out, and with it he gave Argile a great skelp over the head, and so stunned him that he fell in the water, and in the fall cryed, Ah! unfortunate Argile; wheron they lifted him up, and being recovered, carried him away prisoner to Sir John Shaw, ther master, saying, that he lyed in calling himfelfe Argile, for he was but on of his men.’

Sir John was the father of John Schaw, younger of Greenock, who was actively involved in the repression of the Society people.

When Greinock saw him, he presently knew him, tho he had a long baird, for he had suffered it to grow ever since his escape [from Scotland three years earlier], and had resolved never to take it of till he ware redressed; however, when prisoner, they caused him lett shave it.

He offered immediatly his purse to Sir John Shaw, wherin was 130 guinees, according to the laws of war, and was conveyed in to Glagow tolbuith. On which the Earle of Winton, governor of that place for the tyme, wrote in a letter to the Chancelor, telling him he had now the great traitor Argile in his custody; which was so acceptable news to our great men, that they immediately dispatched ane account of it to London, by ane expresse, with Winton’s letter to the King, because it would contribute and influence much to discourage Monmouth [in his rebellion], and any more from joyning with him. Argile was extreimly damped all that night after his taking ; but getting leasure to recoiled his thoughts, he resolved to make a vertue of necessity, and put the best face on his misfortune he could, so he did not ap- [>p182.] pear so confused and embarassed the nixt morning; but [George Douglas, earl of] Dumbarton being come in to see him, and he taking out his snuff-box, and Dumbarton craving a sight of it, and looking to the sculptures and figures cut on it, he in raillerie (for he cannot want his sports) told him, he would not find any crucifixes nor crosses on it, jearing his religion.’

Wodrow mentions that when Argyll was captured and brought to Renfrew, he presented his snuff box to the laird of Crawfordsburn who served in the Renfrewshire militia and had been present at an earlier skirmish with Argyll’s men at Greenock kirk. (Wodrow, History, IV, 299.)

‘Immediatly the Privy Counsell sends orders to bring him in with a safe guard to the Castle of Edinburgh.’ (Lauder of Fountainhall, Historical Observes, 180-2.)


The Argyll Stone © Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse.

Wodrow reports a slightly different version of Argyll’s taking found in a printed account:

‘To return to the earl thus deserted [by Sir John Cochrane’s men], and almost alone, he rode about a mile in the [>p.297.] road to Glasgow [from Old Kilpatrick], accompanied only with Sir Duncan Campbell, major [John] Fullarton, captain Duncanson, and his son Mr John, and sent off Sir Duncan and the captain to make a new levy, if possible; and after having laid down a method for correspondence, parted with them, and went to a certain house, where one lived who had been his servant some years, hoping to be safe there, but was peremptorily denied access.

This forced him and the major [i.e. Captain Fullarton] to cross Clyde, and they went straight to the water of Inchinnin, where at the ford he was stopped by a party; whereupon the earl turned his horse, and went up the water side. Fullarton entertained the party at the water in the mean time, partly by fair, and at length with brisk language, till the earl was a little off, pretending he would not be forced or stopped.

Meanwhile, a country fellow [i.e., the webster?] came and told the commander of the party, that the other was not a country man, and that he had parted with his horse, and taken the water upon his foot, upon which a party was ordered up to him. This the major endeavoured to prevent, and offered rather to yield himself, than that the country man his guide should be troubled. The earl was in a mean habit, and the major in good clothes.

To this the commander of the party condescended; but as soon as the major was disarmed, he sent off two to take the supposed guide, contrary to agreement; which the major seeing, railed at him, and grasping at one of the swords, resolved either to kill or be killed. But he was soon overpowered, and carried away prisoner, and afterwards very wonderfully escaped, of which I want the particulars.’

Captain John Fullerton escaped, but he was forfeited for his part in the Argyll Rising.

‘By this time, those sent came up to the earl, and fired at him while he was in the [White Cart] water: he got through the water, and presented a pocket pistol to some who met him upon the other side, but being spoiled with the water, it did not fire. One of them seeing this, cut him on the head with a broad sword. The laird of Greenock [Sir John Schaw] came up with another party [of militia from Renfrew], and immediately knew him, and seized him, and carried him in prisoner to the earl of Dumbarton at Glasgow. The country people, when they knew it was the earl, regretted what they had done most bitterly.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 296-7.)

Inchinnan Kirk, Ford and FerryInchinnan Ford and Ferry

Argyll is said to have been captured at the Argyll Stone opposite Inchinnan kirk and beside where the White Cart and Black Cart waters meet.

Map of the Argyll Stone

The location was a ferry and fording point across the Cart waters.

Argyll Edinburgh

The Earl’s Letter

The earl of Argyll also wrote an account of his capture:

‘The way of my taking was in short, when our friends had run so far, that to follow and rally them would never do, I was past a possibility of getting to Argyleshire.’

What Argyll meant by ‘our friends had run so far’ was a very acrimonious parting with Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree and Patrick Hume of Polwarth at Old Kilpatrick that saw the final collapse of the Argyll Rising. In Argyll’s view, they and their men had deserted him by running off, stealing their rowing boats and making a crossing of the Clyde. However, Polwarth stated that he had urged Argyll to seek safety in to his Clan Campbell heartlands and George Brysson claimed that Argyll had refused to come with them. What is clear is that within hours of their parting, Argyll changed his ind and decided to follow Ochiltree and Polwarth across the Clyde by fording the river further upstream. There, he ran into some militia men:

‘I attempted to hide, but I fell from one difficulty into another, till two militia men fell upon me, after I had laid by my sword to pass for a country man. I answered their challenges civilly, but at last they laid hands upon me, one upon each side, all of us on horseback. I grappled with both, and one of them and I went to the ground; but I got up, and rid myself of them both, by presenting my pocket pistols. After that five came on me, and fired close at me, without touching me, and [ was like to get rid of them, till they knocked me down with their swords. As soon as they knew what I was, they seemed to be much troubled, but durst not let me go.’ (Printed in Wodrow, History, IV, 297.)

‘The Lang Lad of the Nethertown’

The writer Sir Walter Scott later described the man who captured Argyll in his novel Redgauntlet as ‘the Lang Lad of Nethertown’. There are two Nethertons in Renfrewshire, but it is the one in Renfrew parish that Scott meant. It lies lay on the west bank of the White Cart Water just upstream from the ford where Argyll was captured. Today, it sits off Abbotsinch Road beside Glasgow Airport.

Map of Netherton                    Aerial View of Netherton

Street View of Netherton

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Additional Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on December 2, 2015.

4 Responses to “The Capture of the Earl of Argyll near Renfrew in 1685 #History #Scotland”

  1. […] wicked serving men and troopers that had done their work and cruel bidding on earth. There was the Lang Lad of the Nethertown, that helped to take Argyle; and the bishop’s summoner, that they called the Deil’s Rattlebag; and the wicked guardsmen in […]

  2. […] night before [the earl of] Argile’s taking, and the dispersion of his forces, he had a Counsell of war [on 17 June], wher he proposed, first, […]

  3. […] possibly used the same crossing point as Argyll, where the latter was captured on 18 June. Or he skirted round Glasgow and crossed, either at Bothwell Bridge, or at one of the […]

  4. […] Dr Mark Jardine – The Capture of the Earl of Argyll new Renfrew in 1685 […]

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